While PeacePlayers is no stranger to towns such as Dungannon, Claudy, Derry/Londonderry, Cookstown, Limavady, and Portadown, for the past couple of years PPI-NI’s home has been squarely in the city of Belfast. However, from time to time, PPI-NI will venture outside of the city when we identify a need in a specific community. Beginning in early January, PeacePlayers ran a condensed 4-week twinning program with a group of primary and secondary schools in and around Antrim, which is located about 19 miles to the west of Belfast.
The two secondary schools were Parkhall Integrated College (an integrated high school in Antrim) and St. Benedict’s College, a Catholic high school located about 15 minutes across the county in Randalstown. Approximately twenty students from the schools’ fourth year classes took part in the 4-week program on Monday mornings. The program started with the timid participants nervously putting their hands in the circle to quietly cheer the words “PEACEPLAYERS” in the first session, and ended last Monday with kids running and diving excitedly all over Parkhall’s gymnasium while enthusiastically competing in full-court games. Some participants even approached the PPI-NI coaches after the final session and asked our favorite question: “Do you do other events and can I get involved?” Music to our ears! Also included in the program were community relations discussions that covered challenging topics such as sectarianism, prejudice, and stereotypes.
Maine and Round Tower came together in the morning session, while Crumlin and Rathenraw were ‘twinned’ in the afternoon session. There were numerous highlights and memories over the four weeks, including Nicola of Crumlin Integrated referring to Coach Rory as a “Ginger Man” because of his red hair in one Community Relations session, and Coach Tony McGahran’s team referring to themselves as “Raine,” a combination of Round Tower Integrated and Maine Integrated. Perhaps even more creative was their team motto: “Let it RAINE and we’ll put out your fire!!!”
At the start of every primary school twinning program, PPI-NI encourages the host school give a tour of their school to their visiting twinning partners. In the Antrim program, however, all of the sessions were held in Parkhall’s gymnasium, so PPI-NI asked the four schools if they could make a small presentation about their school at the beginning of the first session. When Mrs. Hall of Crumlin Integrated emailed two days before the first twinning asking if her class could do a “rap” about her school, PPI-NI International Fellow Rory O’Neil didn’t know what to expect. When Crumlin arrived at their twinning with Rathenraw Integrated Primary School, the entire class “dropped” the following lyrics:
Crumlin Integrated is the best,
It is better than the rest.
Our teachers put us to the test,
And we always try to do our best.
Crumlin Integrated is the best,
Why not come along and be our guest.
See what makes us different from the rest.
We like to share because we care,
We always try to be fair.
We are proud of the uniforms we wear,
That’s why people join us there.
CRUMLIN INTEGRATED IS THE BEST,
Needless to say, when a twinning starts off with a class of 9-10-year-olds rapping about their school, it is a good indicator of just how successful the twinning program is going to be – and it was! Thanks to Dermot Fyfe (a teacher at Parkhall) whose enthusiasm and hard work made this 4-week twinning program a reality. Also, a special thanks to the students and teachers of Parkhall Integrated College, St. Benedict’s College, Maine Integrated Primary School, Rathenraw Integrated Primary School, Round Tower Integrated Primary School, and Crumlin Integrated Primary School for participating! We hope to see you all in the future!